As long as you don't anticipate the unorthodox Spanish film "Extraterrestrial" to be some kind of a science fiction epic, there are quite a few pleasures to enjoy about this slight but oftentimes charming film. In fact, I'd hesitate to classify this as science fiction at all and I'm afraid the title might set up expectations for certain viewers that the film will not fulfill. There is a little seen alien menace involved, to be sure, but most of the feature unravels as an amusing romantic comedy tinged with black humor. Director Nacho Vigalondo is responsible for the truly twisted and inventive "Timecrimes," a movie I absolutely love. "Extraterrestrial" certainly shares some of the same offbeat sensibilities as that bit of lunacy, but doesn't push as far into outrageousness. Instead, I found the movie pleasant and original. But, if anything, it doesn't take its wacky premise quite far enough. The situations set up in "Extraterrestrial" should have the potential to provide uproarious laughs (and there are some), but most of the time I was gently amused instead.
The movie begins on the morning after a one night stand. A mismatched couple, Julia and Julio (played by Michelle Jenner and Julian Villagran respectively), awake to find the world forever changed. As flying saucers hover over the earth (and one within sight), the city has been abandoned. The principle cast is comprised of four people--the aforementioned couple, a nosy neighbor, and Julia's boyfriend. As she wants to keep her illicit night with Julio a secret, the pair invent a story to explain why he's at her apartment. One lie begets another, however, and soon their tale involves aspects of the alien attack that are pure fabrication. What ensues is a tale of misinformation, misunderstanding, and comedic cover-up. No real explanation or resolution is ever given for what is going on, and the science fiction elements exist solely to propel this smaller story of confusion and deception. Make no mistake, the alien presence and intentions are completely open-ended--a red herring that really doesn't amount to much.
The tale can be quite funny and surprisingly sweet, I just thought it had the potential to be blisteringly over-the-top. Still, I enjoyed myself even as I thought Vigalondo missed some big opportunities. The cast is solid and some of the relationships escalate to all out warfare. The further things pushed into the absurd, the more I liked the movie. But just as things were kicking into overdrive, the movie is ready to come to its conclusion. "Extraterrestrial," ultimately, was about 3 1/2 stars for me. I liked it when I wanted to love it. I'll round up for the unusual premise but, once again, recommend that you know what you are getting into when viewing the movie. Influenced by aliens, this movie has little to do with actual aliens. KGHarris, 7/12.